Flexible Remote Working
Flexible remote working has always been a potential perk for employees and cost saver for employers. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies into flexible work arrangements or hybrid work set-ups even when they had previously chosen to maintain a traditional office environment. As the pandemic comes to a close and business returns back to normal, many companies will need to reevaluate the pros and cons of working from home to see how they can best operate in the future.
What is Remote Work?
Remote work allows employees who do nearly all of their work on a computer to work from virtually anywhere in the world. Many office workers come to an office, log on to a computer, and have little to no interaction with other workers during the day. Conference room meetings have already been replaced by phone or video calls in many offices; even in-office workers are often spread around multiple locations rather than in a single building.
Remote work simply replaces driving to an office and sitting at a company desk with the employee being allowed to set up their workstation at home or another location of their choosing. A company will need to consider work from home advantages and disadvantages and disadvantages before transitioning to a remote work model.
What is Flexible Remote Working?
Flexible remote working is a mix of traditional office working and remote working. When many companies consider the advantages and disadvantages of working from home, they decide that it works for some jobs or tasks but not for others. For example, they might find that one class of employees spends 80% of their time on computer work that can be done remotely but needs to be present 20% of the time for face-to-face meetings. Flexible remote working allows employees and employers to customize their work styles.
A typical flexible work arrangement for a team that sometimes requires in-person meetings is to declare a limited set of hours when everyone must be in the office. An example of this might be to say, “from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays,” with employees having the choice of working from home or in the office the rest of the time.
When there is no need for mandatory office hours, a hybrid work set-up might give employees the choice to be fully remote, have limited office hours, or decide where to work each day. Employees can then directly decide what’s best for them and their teams. Sometimes, they might want to head to the office to focus on a project. Other times, it’s the office and coworkers providing distractions, and their empty house might be the perfect spot for a few hours of silence.
There is no right or wrong way to do flexible remote working, and there are many different types of possible arrangements. It all comes down to a business decision about what is right for the company as a whole and for individual teams within the company.
Benefits Of Working Remotely
Having the flexibility to work from home based on the situation can provide both employees and the organization many benefits. Of course, you’ll need to figure out how the current benefits of working from home 2020 trends match up against your business needs. Here are some of the main benefits of working remotely.
Working from home productivity statistics go against what many managers might expect. Instead of productivity going down, productivity usually increases with work from home. Part of this is because employees feel more accountable to show true productivity instead of simply putting in their hours. Another important factor is employees are empowered to create an optimal work environment, whether that’s choosing a nice view, being completely shut off from the outside world, or even heading to the office on occasion.
Another surprising factor that comes up when discussing the pros and cons of working from home is that employees often report fewer distractions at home. Coworker interruptions and general office noise can frequently interrupt workflows, especially when employees work on something where they need total focus.
Worries about distractions at home such as children, pets, or chores are often unfounded. Most employees understand the importance of structuring their days to avoid distractions. When given a choice, they also generally choose to work in an office when they know they will have more distractions at home, keeping them from getting work done.
Employees working from home also report less stress. One of the key factors in work-related stress isn’t the job itself but the commute. Employees become frustrated by heavy traffic and poor drivers or worried about arriving late because of a delayed train. At the end of the day, they dread doing the same thing in reverse before finally arriving home.
The additional hour or two saved from commuting also gives employees more time to unwind and take care of personal activities.
Larger Talent Pool
One of the major benefits of working from home for employers is access to a larger talent pool. This can include not losing valuable employees who have to move away because of a spouse’s job or other personal reasons. Working remotely also allows employers to cast a wider net when recruiting instead of being limited to the local talent pool.
Greater Employee Satisfaction
It should be obvious by now that flexible remote working will also lead to greater employee satisfaction. When employees have control over things like their commute and office days, it allows them to eliminate or reduce some of the things they dislike the most about their job. This keeps them from shopping around for a new job just because of one unnecessary negative aspect of their current role. Flexible roles also give them greater control and satisfaction in their own lives, so they come to work without external stresses influencing how they perceive their work environment.
Challenges Of Working From Home
Before moving to flexible remote working, companies will need to consider the disadvantages of working from home. This doesn’t mean that a company shouldn’t use flexible work arrangements, though. Companies can often adopt policies to solve the challenges of working from home and increase productivity overall.
One of the biggest disadvantages of remote working is communication challenges. This can range from casual hallway or drop-in chats to formal meetings traditionally done in person. Difficulties can include difficulties in having impromptu meetings, security concerns, trouble sharing documents, working collaboratively, and feeling more impersonal. There are certainly reasons that large companies have long chosen to spend millions of dollars on travel for meetings, but that doesn’t mean that teams can’t overcome communication challenges.
A large part of the communication difficulties have already been overcome by modern software. Teams can use chat software that is always on and even easier to use than walking down the hallway to see if someone is in their office and available to chat. Video calls are much closer to in-person meetings than traditional conference calls with the ability actually to see everyone. There are also secure file transfer services, online blackboards, and other tools teams can use to enhance their communication while addressing any lingering concerns.
Feelings of Isolation
One of the other cons of working from home is the feelings of isolation that it can bring. This can include both general social isolation as well as not having the support of coworkers with the difficulties of the job. This again comes down to having the right communication systems in place. Team members need to know who they can reach out to when they need help, and that person should be reasonably available. Social chat is important for team building and should be both allowed and encouraged. Many teams choose to set up a separate social channel just for this purpose.
Less Work/Life Balance
Another one of the major challenges of working remotely is employees having less of a work/life balance. Working from home can blur the lines between business time and personal time. It’s also much easier for an employee to jump back on their computer at night when everything they need is at home instead of the office.
Managers need to ensure that employees aren’t feeling pressured to work outside of expected business hours. For roles where some off-hours work is expected, companies should make sure this time is properly documented in line with their comp time or overtime policies.
Another danger of flexible remote working is overworking. This includes both employees working too long and employees simply trying to stay engaged in productive tasks for too many hours in a day. Most office roles include natural meetings, conversations, and other functions that break up the day. A remote day should mirror the office day rather than create an expectation that employees can suddenly replace that natural downtime with full, non-stop productivity.